Solar Impulse took off from Rabat-Sale’ Airport this morning 08:07 a. m. local time, heading over Casablanca and Marrakesh on its way south to Quarzazate, where it is expected to land at 00:30 a. m. local time. Considering early ground speeds under 15 kilometers per hour (about 9 miles per hour), headwinds are a major constraint. Turbulence may also cause difficulties, the area having an average daily temperature in the high 90s and low 100s Fahrenheit.
Quarzazate is a high desert city whose name in Arabic means “noiselessly,” probably reflecting the vast stillness of the surround desert. Home to Atlas film studios, one of the largest in world, and setting, along with the desert and Atlas Mountains, for films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator, the area is also a prime solar-energy site for MASEN, the Moroccan solar agency and destination for the Solar Impulse.
MASEN is on track to complete a solar farm at Quarzazate, along with four others by 2019. The completed projects could generate 4,500 gigawatts, or 18 percent of the nation’s energy needs. The sites will make it possible to save 1 million Tons Oil Equivalent (TOE) and avoid the emission of 3.7 million tons of CO2 annually.
Solar Impulse’s arrival will mark a ceremonial and symbolic acknowledgement of the country’s affirmation of clean energy.
The video shows highlights of the Madrid-to-Rabat voyage, with night takeoff and landing, demonstrating Solar Impulse’s ability to stay aloft on energy stored during daylight hours.
Readers can follow the flight here , with a moving map, representations of the flight instruments, and live coverage from the cockpit and the command center in Payerne, Switzerland.
(Correction: An observant reader noted that 4,500 gigawatts seemed too high an output, and a quick check of World Bank figures shows that 2,000 megawatts may be more appropriate for the entire country-wide installation – due to be completed in 2020, although numbers vary from one source to another. The Quarzazate site alone would generate 500 MW – right in line with the reader’s comment, whose math is better than this editors and that on the MASEN web site.)